The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team completed a perfect season in Region V-Class 4A play with a pair of victories over Sitka on Friday and Saturday nights.
But the Crimson Bears had to work a little harder than normal for the final victory Saturday at the JDHS main gym.
The Crimson Bears dropped the first game of the match when they played several seniors who don't usually start, then had to win the next three games to claim the two-hour-long match, 13-15, 15-11, 15-3, 15-13. On Friday, Juneau took just over an hour to sweep Sitka, 15-8, 15-3, 15-13.
"That's what we wanted to do this season, to go 8-0 in regions. And we did it," Juneau senior outside hitter Anna Capacci said after leading the Crimson Bears with 16 kills and three service aces. "The first game was different as we let some seniors get playing time. But it was a good finish to the season."
"We weren't worried," Juneau senior middle blocker Brenna Asper-Smith said about losing the first game. "Toward the end of today we got a little tired. But we also got a lot of energy."
The two victories over Sitka, combined with two over Ketchikan on Wednesday and Thursday, gave Juneau an 11-4 overall record, 8-0 in region. Sitka fell to 0-8 in region and overall.
The Crimson Bears will take the region's top seed and a first-round bye into the Region V-Class 4A tournament this weekend in Wrangell. The winner of the double-elimination region tournament qualifies for the Class 4A state tournament Nov. 8-10 in Anchorage, a trip Juneau hasn't missed in 13 years.
In Saturday's match, Juneau started an all-senior lineup even though its usual rotation features three juniors and a sophomore. The lineup had a couple of players out of their normal positions, and it took awhile for the Crimson Bears to get used to the combinations.
Juneau fell behind 13-3 in the first game, but rallied to tie the score at 13-13 as the seniors became more comfortable and figured out how to neutralize the attack of Sitka outside hitter Amyee Oen. But after Juneau tied the game, Sitka's Cara Palmer closed out the game with a pair of aces and Juneau lost its only game of the week's four matches.
In the second game, Juneau jumped out to a 10-3 lead and Sitka seemed to be in trouble when outside hitter Kim Uddipa twisted her ankle and wasn't able to play again. But the Wolves rallied and pulled to within 11-8 and 13-11 before Juneau closed out the game. Juneau dominated the third game and only trailed when Sitka won the first point.
In the fourth game, the two teams were tied 3-3 when Juneau went on a run to take an 11-5 lead. But Sitka rallied to close within 11-10 and finally tied the score at 13-13 as middle blocker Heather Hawk made a pair of emphatic kills for the Wolves. After four exchanges of serve with the score 13-13, Juneau closed out the match as Amy Neussl served an ace and Capacci made a kill down the line.
Asper-Smith added 15 kills for the Crimson Bears, while Kelly Baxter had eight kills, Neussl had four kills and six blocks and Krista Heard recorded four kills. Callan Janowiec had 14 digs, four aces and two blocks, Julie Heard had eight digs and two aces, and Devra Roberts had five digs and two aces.
In Friday's match, Juneau struggled with its serving but still managed to dominate play. Juneau had nine service errors in the first game, which allowed Sitka to hang around in a game Juneau led 12-3. Over the match, Juneau had 16 service errors.
"We were working on serving tougher and going for tough serves," Janowiec said after Friday's match. "It was a lot more intense tonight (than in the two Ketchikan matches)."
"We were working on our deep serves," Neussl said. "Everybody was working hard. It was a lot more exciting and we were feeling it."
Neussl led Juneau with 15 kills, three blocks and seven digs, while Baxter added 11 kills and five digs. Julie Heard had six kills, Capacci had five kills and Asper-Smith recorded four kills, plus Janowiec had 11 digs and two aces and Sarah Bixby added five digs.
"Our passing was great and we were able to get a lot of ones and quicks going in our offense," Heard said. "But our serving was a little rough."
Besides the two varsity matches with Sitka, Juneau's junior varsity and C teams hosted a 17-team All-Comers Tournament. Hoonah One claimed the tournament title with a 5-15, 15-6, 15-7 victory over Juneau One in the gold bracket final, while Sitka One beat Juneau Two in the silver bracket final and Kake beat Hoonah Two in the bronze bracket final.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.